Every year we have to navigate through cold, flu, and allergy season. It seems like there’s never a time where we don’t have to actively avoid catching and spreading illnesses. The viruses and bacteria that cause sickness and infection may be spread by breathing particles in the air or by touching any object that may have traces of those particles followed by touching your mouth, nose, or eyes. Sickness is inevitably a part of daily life and it’s difficult to contain the spread, but there are measures that we can take to do our individual part; while still taking care of our skin’s needs
SCRUBBING TO STOP THE SPREAD
Public health officials say one of the best things individuals can do to prevent the spread of viruses and bacteria is to wash hands frequently and use a hand sanitizer with a base of at least 60% alcohol. It’s necessary to wash hands before eating, and after using the bathroom, blowing your nose, coughing, sneezing, touching a pet, or handling garbage. Whenever your hands may have come into contact with dirt or bacteria, it’s time to give them a scrub. This may require you to wash more times than you would think, considering how little we tend to disinfect items like our phones, keyboards, and other technological appliances.
WASHING HANDS THE RIGHT WAY
In taking precautions against spreading and catching illnesses, you’ll be washing your hands a whole lot, especially if you are extra cautious. When we talk about washing your hands, we don’t mean a quick five-second water-soap-water-done twice a day situation. To thoroughly clean your hands and rid them of viruses and bacteria, wash for at least twenty seconds; you can use the singing the happy birthday song through twice trick or if you want something a little more fun find twenty seconds of your favorite song to use for reference and sing along in your head (or out loud if you feel bold). Scrub the top and bottom of hands, between each finger, and under nails, being sure you get to every finger (thumbs are the trickiest). Rinse, and dry with either a clean towel, or let air dry. Wet hands are more susceptible to picking up bacteria so using a clean towel and avoiding touching surfaces until they’re completely dry is crucial.
On the subject of hand sanitizer: while it is beneficial for on the go sanitizing, it is not an adequate replacement for frequent hand washing, and won’t eliminate all germs on your hands. A combination of hand washing whilst near a sink and soap, and using hand sanitizer to fill in the gaps when absolutely necessary is ideal.
HOW TO FIGHT THE DRYNESS
Becoming more diligent about hand hygiene is great for preventing the spread of illnesses, but not so great for the skin on our hands. All that soap, alcohol, and constant scrubbing strips the natural oils from your hands that are vital for retaining moisture. Luckily there are some tips and tricks that will help you stay sanitized, healthy, and moisturized.
1. Wash with Lukewarm Water
Using water that’s scorching hot can dry up your hands even further. Hot water causes more blood to flow to the hands which results in lost fluid and depleted moisture levels. Using electric hand dryers that blow out hot air have the same effect. Washing with lukewarm water, around room temperature, and letting hands air dry will maintain body temperature and avoid moisture loss.
2. Use a Gentle Soap
Antibacterial soaps and alcohol-based hand sanitizers will effectively get the job done, however, they aren’t necessary, and the ingredients can be harsh and drying on your hands. Using a more mild soap that may not be labeled anti-bacterial will work just fine because it is the friction of washing your hands and the cleaning ingredients in common soaps that eliminate microbes from your hands.
A glycerin-based soap will draw water into the surface skin layer, and give an extra boost of moisture to your hands. You can also look out for other calming, moisturizing ingredients like shea butter, oatmeal, vegetable oils, and Vitamin E. If you're looking for a great glycerin-based soap bar, try Cleure’s Glycerin Face and Body SLS Free Bar.
3. Moisturize Directly after Washing
Using a cream on your hands while they are still slightly damp, but not soaking wet, is the best time as it will help seal water into your skin. Look for moisturizers with those same aforementioned gentle and moisturizing ingredients. Lightweight creams are also preferred as they’ll absorb quicker, and you’ll avoid that risk of extra bacteria latching on to moist hands.
You’ll also want to make sure to not get too out of hand (pun intended) with the moisturizer. Over moisturizing will cause your hands to become dependent on the cream, and it will adapt to not having to produce as much of its own moisture. Try to stick to using a cream two or three times a day, just when your skin is feeling particularly brittle.
4. Use Gloves
Seeing as you're avoiding the spread of germs, you’ll most likely be cleaning up around the house more often. While doing dishes, cleaning the bathroom, or anything else that requires the use of cleaning supplies, make sure to cover your hands with rubber gloves. The chemical ingredients in household cleaners can further dry your hands and even cause irritation or contact dermatitis.
Trying to keep your house as clean as your hands? Find out how to make your own natural, non-toxic household cleaners here.
5. Develop a Nighttime Regimen
Applying hand cream throughout the day will keep hand moisture in check, but if things are still dry and cracked when nighttime rolls around, then consider more intensive care. Here’s a good example of what you can do a few nights a week to give your hands that extra rejuvenating treatment.
- Use a scrub - If your hands are dry and flakey, use a gentle scrub to remove those dead skin cells, and allow healthy new cells to take their place.
- Emu Oil - If you haven’t tried or heard of emu oil, it can have immense benefits, one of which being moisture restoration and retention. The structure of emu oil is small enough to penetrate the skin deeply and lock in moisture. Rub a thin layer of emu oil over your hands prior to applying moisturizer, or even mix a few drops into your moisturizer.
- Thick moisturizer - Apply a thick layer of a rich moisturizer that can soak into your hands at night, and wear gloves in order to keep the moisture in. Since you don’t have to worry about touching anything for a few hours, reach for a thick moisturizer full of restorative antioxidants and vitamins like the ones found in night creams.
6. Stay Hydrated!
Hydration will always be a necessity for skin health in any shape or form. Our bodies are about 60% water so it’s a crucial building block and the basis of all health, be it immune health, skin health, or anything in between. Drink at least eight cups of water a day as the foundation for keeping your hands hydrated and you’ll reap every other benefit that comes with giving your body what it needs.
While your health should always be your main priority, the little nuisances that come along with taking preventative measures can be a downer. Clean hands will help fight the spread of illness, which is the goal, but dryness from frequent washing makes health feel like a burden which should never be the case. So go ahead and use these tips to take control of both your immunity and your skin, and you’ll be moisturized, happy, and healthy in more ways than one.